Inside the luxury nuclear bunker protecting the mega-rich from the apocalypse

A volcanic-ash scrubber, a decontamination room, a waterslide — when it comes to surviving a nuclear apocalypse, the Survival Condo has everything you could need, at a price.

by Claire Reilly

“The pressure wave is so intense it will blow down concrete buildings.”

– Professor Brian Toon

For most of my adult life, I’ve had an apocalypse plan.

It’s been straightforward. Grab my go bag, drive out to a shack in the woods, then hunker down under the floorboards eating canned food through the valve in my gas mask, waiting for the nukes to drop.

But after visiting my first real nuclear bunker, my apocalypse plan has been upgraded. Now my list of needs includes “underground swimming pool” and “postapocalyptic rock-climbing wall.” I’ve become fussy about how I’ll spend time during the planet’s dying breaths. My bug-out bag has gotten bougie. I’ve seen the world’s most high-tech bunker, and I want in.

Welcome to the Survival Condo. This former Atlas Missile silo turned luxury condominium complex offers the world’s rich and powerful a chance to buy into the ultimate life insurance: an apocalypse bunker that promises the perfect combination of shelter and style.

The Survival Condo has a lot of the hallmarks of your standard fallout shelter. It’s underground (200 feet underground, in the middle of rural Kansas, 200 miles from Kansas City). It was built during the Cold War (as a nuclear missile launch facility). It’s also been retrofitted with nine-foot-thick reinforced concrete walls designed to survive everything from tornadoes to 12-kiloton nuclear warheads dropping half a mile away.

This story is part of Hacking the Apocalypse, CNET’s documentary series on the tech saving us from the end of the world.
Robert Rodriguez/CNET

But if the proverbial hits the fan and you need a place to go, don’t plan on coming here. Even if you could find it (the location is secret), the bunker is guarded 24 hours a day. Besides, that’s not even your main problem. Your biggest barrier to getting in? This kind of security comes at a price.

The starting cost for a unit in this complex is $1 million, plus an extra $2,500 per month in dues to cover your living expenses: electricity, water, internet, all the tinned eggs you could dream of.

For the ultra-rich and paranoid, though, you can’t put a price on safety. When nuclear war is on our doorstep, do you think the world’s rich and powerful will be quaking in the streets? Hell no. They’re going underground. And I’m determined to join them.

Hacking the Apocalypse is CNET’s new documentary series digging into the science and technology that could save us from the end of the world. You can check out our episodes on Pandemic, Nuclear Winter and Global Drought, and see the full series on YouTube.
The end of the world as we know it

Nuclear winter isn’t like spending Christmas upstate. It’s a global nightmare realm, where Ice Age-like temperatures last for years, populations perish and life as we know it becomes the stuff of sci-fi nightmares.

At least that’s according to Brian Toon, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado and world-renowned expert on the global effects of nuclear war.

I met with Toon in his offices in Boulder, Colorado, to learn about exactly what happens when a 100-kiloton nuclear weapon falls.

After a nuclear blast, smoke gets pushed into the stratosphere where it can block out sunlight for years.
Amy Kim/CNET

“If you get within a mile or so, the pressure wave is so intense it will blow down concrete buildings,” says Toon. “And somewhere in that zone, there’s a blast of radiation … and basically half of the people exposed to that would die over a week or two from radiation burns on their skin and radiation poisoning.”

Toon says a nuclear explosion is like “bringing a piece of the sun down to the Earth,” and the aftermath of that kind of explosion causes huge fires — think citywide infernos. Those fires push huge amounts of smoke up into the stratosphere. And because it never rains in the stratosphere, sunlight can’t reach Earth. Welcome to nuclear winter.

“The temperatures become colder than the last Ice Age,” says Toon. “So we have sub-Ice Age temperatures over the whole planet for about 10 years.”

That’s exactly why the Survival Condo exists — to protect the mega-rich from the devastation of global nuclear war, and to make sure the world’s most powerful people can survive in comfort, rather than shivering in the wasteland, waiting to have their billionaire brains eaten by hungry hordes.

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